While many expect to see rows of bright blooms and cushion flowers at the Chelsea Flower Show, this year’s featured gardens will also feature biodiverse elements such as mushrooms and beaver habitat.
Garden designers at the annual Royal Horticulture Society (RHS) show have been asked to consider the environment when applying.
Although many traditional aspects of the show, including the award-winning flowers in the Grand Pavilion, remain, many gardens focus on nature rather than conventional manicured beauty.
For the first time, the gardening power of beavers will be exhibited at the show. The Rewilding Britain landscape garden, by designers Lulu Urquhart and Adam Hunt, will show how rodents nurture the landscape and allow biodiversity to thrive.
Beavers went extinct in the UK 400 years ago, and only in recent years have they been reintroduced to parts of the country.
Their garden will show off a naturally re-wild landscape in the South West of England, with the designers saying they will “show the role of beavers as amazing bio-engineers within a natural ecosystem”.
It will feature a beaver dam and pool with a pavilion behind it, and will feature a “riparian meadow” of the kind beavers create when they partially flood a bank and attract pollinators and other wildlife.
The couple said: “The inspiration for the garden comes from seeing the incredible abundance, diversity and beauty that comes from the presence of beavers, a mammal once lost to the British landscape and now reintroduced.”
Trees favored by beavers, including hazelnuts and field maples, were chosen for the garden, along with wildflowers and native plants that encourage and support trees such as hawthorn and alder, which provide winter food for many birds and support dozens of insect species.
Rather than flowers, designer Joe Perkins decided to stage a range of fungi to highlight “the inseparable link between plants and fungi within forest ecosystems”.
Between buying new roses and water features for their gardens, attendees will learn about the intricate webs of mycelium that connect and support woodland life, in the exhibit that will use trees like chestnut and Douglas fir .
The garden will also include species accustomed to warmer climates, to highlight how our planting may have to change due to global warming.
While most attendees to the show, to be held in May at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea, typically focus on what grows in the ground, the earth itself is the star of the new Blue Peter Garden .
The creator, Juliet Sergeant, hopes to “open the eyes of children and adults to the role of the soil in sustaining life and its potential to help in our fight against climate change”.
The garden will include an underground chamber, which will show a soil animation and soil-themed artwork by the children of Salford. It also includes a rooftop meadow and barley field with common spotted and southern marsh orchids and a two-ton tree on the planted rooftop, showing the wide variety of plants good healthy soil can support.
Also at the show is a food garden by Howard Miller, for Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. The garden features a mobile foraging kitchen and is designed to help children engage with nature by foraging, sharing healthy foods, playing, relaxing together and being in the moment .
The garden will be strongly characterized by heather and blueberries. Miller said: “One of my favorite childhood memories is going blueberry picking with my grandparents. My grandfather Harold used to count 1,000 blueberries in a bag before he allowed himself to talk to us. My grandmother Mary and I would sit and eat the blueberries while he wasn’t looking.
“The smell of sitting among the heather and blueberries carries me to that moment. So what I would like people to have is to try and forage for food, it’s free , it’s good for the soul and it’s a great excuse to connect with nature and each other.